HM Insights

Petition to abolish 10-year rule for the storage of frozen eggs to preserve fertility

We are delighted to hear of the Progress Educational Trust's Petition to bring about a change in the regulatory framework around storage of frozen eggs.

Having had clients in the position of having to delay treatment due to relationship breakdown or other factors outwith their direct control, we are all too aware of the devastating consequences which the current Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) regulations can have for some women. Women who, having taken the responsible decision to preserve their fertility at a younger age, now find themselves having to face having their hopes of having a child genetically connected to them dashed because of a rule which is widely regarded by medical professionals and lawyers as unnecessary, arbitrary and unfair.

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The 10-year rule

Many clients are unaware of the "10-year rule" contained within the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, which directs that clinics must destroy frozen eggs after 10 years, unless certain medical exemptions apply. This means that women who decided to preserve their fertility but are not yet in a position to have treatment can find themselves either forced to make treatment decisions under time pressure, or face having their eggs destroyed without their consent.

The Progress Educational Trust is a charitable organisation working in the field of reproductive medicine. Advances in reproductive medicine have significant consequences for our clients in terms of family creation but also in terms of consequences on separation or divorce. Some women may not have found a partner with whom they wish to create a family. Some women may feel that the time is not right for them in terms of their personal or financial circumstances. Some women may find themselves facing relationship breakdown within or close to the expiry of the 10-year time limit. Their only options are to have their eggs moved to another country, at great cost, to use the eggs, perhaps using a donor, or to face the consequences.

Those who find it difficult to make such intensely personal and important decisions may find that their choice is taken from them, with their clinician being legally bound to destroy their eggs.

Profound consequences

There is no sound medical reason to justify the existence of the rule. It is often argued that the rule will only affect a relatively small number of women. Yet the potential consequences flowing from the existence of the rule are profound.

Baroness Deech has already drafted a Bill which, if endorsed and made law, would have the effect of abolishing the "10-year rule", but the issue is not widely recognised and as such has not attracted the attention of politicians to the extent necessary. Hopefully the Petition will change that.

You can find out more and add your support to the petition here.

Get in touch

If you are affected by any of the issues above and would like to discuss your situation with a member of our team, please get in touch.

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